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Hospice volunteers treated to apprectiation reception

April 22, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

"A lot of people say, 'Ooh, why are you doing that?'" said Linda Marshall, a patient care volunteer for Hospice of Washington County Inc.

When Marshall began the training process to provide support for people and families confronting terminal illnesses one year ago, she hesitated each step of the way, wondering whether she wanted to go through with it, she said. Now she says she's glad she did.

"It sounds cliché, trite and everything else, but the more I'm involved in it, the more I feel enriched, and that's the absolute truth," Marshall said.

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From 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, Hospice held an open house-style reception at the agency's conference center in the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown to honor more than 140 volunteers like Marshall.

The volunteers - who donated 4,876 hours of service during the past year - enjoyed musical entertainment and a buffet of finger foods and punch. Each received a purple and green ribbon-shaped pin distributed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to create awareness and promote outreach for end-of-life care.

Most volunteers have either had their own personal experience caring for seriously ill family members, or know someone who has and are looking to pay back in some way, said Mary Foor, volunteer services director for Hospice of Washington County.

Mary Diehl began donating her time after her husband passed away. Diehl said while she had the support of her family and church, she realized many people had no one, and she felt compelled to help other people through the dying process.

"It's not the easiest place to volunteer," Foor said.

Despite the grief and bereavement inherent to the work, volunteers say their efforts are gratifying.

Page Cary volunteers and provides respite care so patients' families can have a few free hours a week. She said she feels privileged and honored to share people's lives. Patients often spend time reflecting upon their lives and sharing stories that families may have heard 50 times over, but they are new and stirring to her, Cary said.

"It's not just that you feel you are making a difference," she said. "They make a difference to you. It's a very powerful experience."

Besides providing patient care and bereavement support to families for up to 18 months after a patient's death, Hospice volunteers perform office assistance, fund-raising, pastoral care, and some offer specialized skills such as hairstyling, music therapy and massage therapy.

Patient, bereavement and pastoral care volunteers are required to complete a 24-hour training course to enhance interpersonal skills and explore physical and emotional challenges faced by individuals and families dealing with terminal illness. All volunteers are supervised by Hospice staff.

"It's a real sense of genuine teamwork," Cary said.

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